Far greater setbacks from wind turbines necessary, to maintain max. 45db noise level.

Irish government modelling of wind energy potential

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Today, 16 January 2017, almost four years on from the first public call for submissions on the proposed revision of the 2006 wind energy guidelines, we are sharing information in relation to modelling undertaken by the RPS Group, in 2015, which was commissioned by the Sustainable Authority of Ireland (SEAI) for the then Department of Communications Energy and Natural Resources (now the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment) and the then Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (now the department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government).

RPS were commissioned to model Ireland’s land area and power generating potential from wind energy developments, taking into account a number of variable factors including:

  • Turbine size, type and hub/tip height;
  • Noise and shadow flicker;
  • Proposed setback distances;
  • Minimum wind speeds;
  • Terrain contours; and
  • Ground factors.

The background to this modelling was the proposed technical revision to the Wind Energy Development Guidelines 2006. As regular readers of this blog will be aware the proposed technical revision has turned into a political hot potato with no Minister yet willing to stand up to the wind industry, despite the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment declaring that the current guidelines are ‘not fit for purpose’. The proposed Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and further consultation have still not been commenced.

Nevertheless, the discussion in the RPS Group, Report on Wind Turbine Noise Modelling, of 11 May 2015 is startling for most communities, as RPS through consultations with the wind industry expect tip heights of between 150m to 175m to be the norm for future developments, with 200m tip heights being required for some low wind sites.  Possible setback distances emerging from the acoustic modelling are also quiet frightening (see copy of table 3.2 below).

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Documents, in PDF, we are sharing are:

Further iterations of the modeling then followed which were also released:

Please note these documents were shared with us by a friend of this blog, who gained access to them under the Access to Environmental Information Regulations.  Access was only granted following a number of Appeals to the Commissioner for Environmental Information; with the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, further delaying release for three months despite the Commissioners decision.  We are heartened that the Commissioner in deciding that these documents should be released stated:

In my opinion, it is at least possible that disclosure of the withheld information would help the public to scrutinise the reasons put forward by politicians in delaying this important policy decision.  I therefore accept that this public interest argument would favour disclosure now, before a decision is made.

… if disclosure were to lead to a submission being made to the Department which was of such import that it could not be ignored, such a submission would appear to be highly important and very much in the public interest. There is a strong public interest in making the decision [in relation to the revised guidelines] as soon as possible, but there is also a strong public interest in getting it right.
For these reasons I am not persuaded that disclosure would be contrary to the public interest. As that is my conclusion, I must find that refusal to provide access to the withheld information is not justified on this ground.

With the Commissioners words ringing in our ears we are calling on our readers and followers to review, scrutinise and find flaws in the reasons relied upon by your politicians and policy makers.

We are also welcoming guest blogs on this issue and if any of you out there want to provide some much needed technical analysis of these documents and to publish on this blog (or to make a valuable submission to the Minister), please e-mail us at: cawt.donegal@gmail.com.

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People are Harmed by Wind Turbine Noise.

Wind Turbine Noise Adversely Impacts Nearby People and Animals

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Europe and the US have been building onshore wind turbine plants in rural areas for more than 25 years. Anyone living within about 1.0 mile of such plants would hear the noises year-round, year after year. Those nearby people would be experiencing:

  • Decreasing property values.
  • Damage to their health, due to lack of sleep and peace of mind.
  • Living with closed windows and doors, due to year-round noises.
  • Exposure to infrasound.

The wind turbine noise problem is worldwide. Due to a lack of worldwide guidelines, various political entities have been developing their own codes for the past 30 years. The World Health Organization is finally addressing the lack of detailed guidelines regarding such noises.

World Health Organization Noise Guidelines: WHO, publishes detailed guidelines regarding various, everyday noises, such as near highways and airports, within urban communities and in work places. The guidelines serve as input to local noise codes.

In general, wind turbines are located in rural areas. When they had low rated outputs, say about 500 kW in the 1960s and 1970s, they made little audible noise, and the infrasound was weak. However, when rated outputs increased to 1000 kW or greater, the audible and infrasound noises became excessive and complaints were made by nearby people all over the world.

WHO, which has not published any detailed guidelines regarding wind turbine noises, will be releasing environmental noise guidelines for the European region in the near future.

Worldwide guidelines regarding wind turbine noises are needed to protect nearby rural people, such as regarding:

  • The maximum outdoor dBA value, how that value is arrived at, such as by averaging over one hour, where that value is measured, such as near a residence, or at the resident property line to enable that resident to continue to enjoy his entire property.
  • How to measure, or calculate the outdoor-to-indoor sound attenuation of a residence.
  • How much setback is needed, such as one mile to minimize infrasound impacts on nearby residents.
  • The maximum dB value of infrasound, how that value is arrived at, where that value is measured.
  • How to determine the need for a 5 dB annoyance penalty.

The lack of such guidelines has resulted in various political jurisdictions creating their own codes. That process has been heavily influenced by well-financed, pro-wind interests, which aim to have the least possible regulation to maximize profits.

Comparison of Wind Turbine Codes: Below are some highlights from the noise codes of various political entities to illustrate their diversity:

1) DENMARK: Because Denmark was an early developer of wind turbine plants, its noise code is more detailed than of most political entities. It has a buffer zone of 4 times total height of a wind turbine, about 4 x 500 = 2,000 ft, about 0.61 km (no exceptions), and it also has the following requirements regarding outdoor and indoor noise:

OUTDOOR

  • For dwellings, summer cottages, etc.: 39 dBA (wind speeds of 8 m/s, 18 mph) and 37 dBA (wind speeds of 6 m/s, 13 mph)
  • For dwellings in open country: 44 dBA (wind speeds of 8 m/s) and 42 dBA (wind speeds of 6 m/s)

The below regulations describe the methods and time periods over which sounds are to be measured:

  • Page 4, par 5.1.1 mentions averaging over various periods. Only the worst average readings of a period are to be considered for compliance.
  • Page 4, par 5.1.2 mentions a 5 dB annoyance penalty must be added to the worst average readings for a period for clearly audible tonal and impulse sounds with frequencies greater than 160 Hz, which would apply to wind turbine sounds.
  • Page 6, par 5.4 mentions limits for indoor A-weighted low frequency noise 10 – 160 Hz, and G-weighted infrasound 5 – 20 Hz.

“If the perceived noise contains either clearly audible tones, or clearly audible impulses, a 5 dB annoyance penalty shall be added to the measured equivalent sound pressure level” That means, if a measured outdoor reading is 40 dBA (open country, wind speed 6 m/s), and annoyance is present, the reading is increased to 45 dBA, which would not be in compliance with the above-required 42 dBA limit.

In some cases, a proposed wind turbine plant would not be approved, because of the 5 dB annoyance penalties. The noise of wind turbines varies up and down. The annoyance conditions associated with wind turbines occur year-round. The annoyance conditions associated with other noise sources usually occur much less frequently.

NOTE: The 5 dB penalty does not apply to indoor and outdoor low frequency and infrasound noises, i.e., 160 Hz or less.

INDOOR

– For both categories (dwellings, summer cottages, etc.; open country), the mandatory limit for low frequency noise is 20 dBA (Vermont’s limit is 30 dBA), which applies to the calculated indoor noise level in the 1/3-octave bands 10 – 160 Hz, at both 6 and 8 m/s wind speed. The purpose of the regulation is to ensure neither the usual noise, nor the low frequency noise, will annoy nearby people when the wind turbines are in operation.

Denmark’s Controversial Noise Attenuation Calculations: The controversy in Denmark is regarding the Danish EPA assuming high attenuation factors for calculating attenuation from 44 dBA (outdoor) to 20 dBA (indoor, windows closed) for frequencies above 63 Hz, which yield calculated indoor noise levels less than 20 dBA. The Danish EPA prefers assuming high factors, because they result in compliance, which is favorable for wind turbines.

However, acoustics engineers have made indoor field measurements (supposedly “too difficult to measure”, according to the Danish EPA), which indicate many houses near wind turbine plants have lower than assumed attenuation factors, which results in indoor noise levels greater than 20 dBA, i.e., non-compliance, which is not favorable for wind turbines.

However, the final arbiters should not be government personnel using assumptions, but the nearby people. Increasingly, those people are venting their frustrations at public hearings and in public demonstrations.

2) POLAND is considering a proposed a law with a 2.0 km (1.24 mile) buffer zone between a wind turbine and any building. That means at least 65% of Poland would be off limits to wind turbines. Future wind turbine plants likely would be offshore.

3) BAVARIA, a state in Germany, just enacted a setback of 10 times turbine height, i.e., 10 x 500 ft = 5,000 ft, almost one mile. In Germany, the wind turbine nighttime noise limit is not to exceed 35 dBA.

The second URL shows what happens when it is sunny and windy in Germany. The excess energy is dumped onto connected grids at near-zero wholesale prices. This has been happening more and more hours of the year.

4) LETCHER TOWNSHIP, South Dakota, voted for a 1-mile buffer zone. Under the approved ordinance, no large wind turbine plant could be built within 5,280 feet of the nearest residence of a non-participating homeowner, or within 1,500 feet of the nearest neighbor’s property line.

5) NEW HAMPSHIRE’s wind turbine code requires the following:

  • Sound: Wind turbine plants must meet a ‘not-to-exceed’ standard of 45 dBA from 8am – 8pm and 40 dBA from 8pm – 8am. The sound measurements are to be taken ‘on property that is used in whole or in part for permanent or temporary residential purposes.’
  • Shadow Flicker: A shadow-flicker assessment must be completed for each residence, learning space, workplace, health care setting, public gathering place (outdoor and indoor), other occupied building and roadway, within a minimum of 1 mile of any turbine, based on shadow flicker modeling that assumes an impact distance of at least 1 mile from each of the turbines. Shadow flicker may not occur more than 8 hours per year at any of these locations.
  • Setbacks: The applicant must complete an assessment of the risks of ice throw, blade shear, tower collapse on any property, roadway, etc. A committee will determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether there is a concern with the setbacks and/or the appropriate distance that should be set.

6) MAINE’s wind turbine noise code requires the following:

In 2012, the Maine Board of Environmental Protection adopted noise control regulations that are specific to wind turbine plants.

Maine DEP Chapter 375.10(I) of Maine DEP regulations specifies sound level limits for wind turbine plants as 55 dBA from 7am – 7pm (the “daytime limit”), and 42 dBA from 7pm – 7am (the “nighttime limit”) averaged over one hour, at protected locations.

Maine DEP nighttime limits apply as follows:

  • Within 500 feet of a residence on a protected location or at the (project) property line, if closer to the dwelling. The resulting sound levels at a residence itself are usually lower than at 500 feet from the dwelling or at the property line where the 42 dBA “nighttime limit” applies.
  • Beyond 500 feet, the daytime limit of 55 dBA applies 24 hours per day.

Maine DEP Chapter 375.10 noise rules establish sound level limits on an hourly basis although compliance for wind turbine plants is evaluated by averaging sound levels over twelve or more ten-minute measurement intervals with turbines operating at full-rated sound output. There are also special provisions and “penalties” that apply when the sound generated by a wind project result in tonal or short-duration, repetitive sounds. This standard is described in more detail in the remainder of this report. See URL.

Maine DEP Chapter 375.10, Section I, requires a 5 dB annoyance penalty be added for certain occurrences of tonal and short duration repetitive (SDR) sounds when determining compliance with hourly sound level limits.

7) VERMONT has an ad hoc wind turbine code , i.e., applied on a project-by-project basis.

The code allows a maximum noise of 45 dBA (outdoor), averaged over one hour, as measured at a nearby residence. The averaging makes disappear random noise spikes of 60 – 70 dBA, which disturb the sleep of nearby people.

The code allows a maximum noise of 30 dBA (indoor, windows closed), averaged over one hour.

The code makes no distinction for daytime and nighttime, even though people may want to have open windows, especially during warm nights.

Vermont’s code has: 1) no required buffer zone; 2) no required infrasound limit; 3) no 5 dB annoyance penalty; 4) the indoor limit is 30 dB, whereas the Denmark limit is 20 dB.

In Vermont, residences cannot attenuate 45 dBA (outdoor) to 30 dBA (indoor, windows closed), according to acoustics tests. See URL.

NOTE: If Denmark’s residences cannot attenuate 44 dBA (outdoor) to 20 dBA (indoor, windows closed), and Vermont residences cannot attenuate 45 dBA to 30 dBA (a much easier requirement), then the options are: 1) have lesser capacity wind turbines; 2) locate them further away from residences, i.e., a greater buffer zone; 3) upgrade the attenuation of nearby residences; 4) buy out the owners.

The Vermont code is much less strict than of Denmark and New Hampshire, largely because of the political influence of RE special interests. Five years ago, the Vermont Public Service Board could have copied major parts of the Danish code to create a Vermont code that actually protects nearby people.

Measuring Wind Turbine Sounds: This article describes in detail some aspects of measuring wind turbine sounds.

Everyday noises in the audible range are weighted using a curve that approximates the response of the human ear. See figures 1 and 2 of article. If the A-curve is applied to sound measurement dB readings, they are designated as dBA.

The dB levels of frequencies below about 200 cycles per second, i.e., 200 Hz, are artificially lowered, due to the A-curve application. That includes infrasound frequencies of 20 Hz, or less. See figure 3 of article.

The site background noise is affected by wind speed. At near zero wind speed, as often occurs in rural areas at night, the noise is about 10 to 15 dBA. See figure 4 of article.

Outdoor-to-indoor attenuation of infrasound below 4 Hz is near zero for a wood-frame house 1,300 meters (4,265 ft) from a wind turbine. See figure 8 and 9 of article. Whereas a resident would not hear such noises, they would create significant physical discomfort, such as nausea, headaches, dizziness, etc., if the noises were strong, i.e., have high dB values.

Figure 11 of the article shows a similar lack of outdoor-to-indoor attenuation of infrasound for a house 8,000 meters from a wind turbine. The conclusion is: Infrasound below 4 Hz travels long distances and is very little attenuated by a wood-frame house.

Infrasound: Sounds with frequencies of 20 Hz, or less, are defined as infrasound. Those sounds are not heard, but felt. A rotor blade passing the mast of a wind turbine creates a burst of audible and inaudible sound of various frequencies. The base frequency is about one cycle per second, similar to a person’s heart beat, and the harmonics, at 2, 4 and 8 Hz, are similar to the natural frequencies of other human organs, i.e., ears, eyes, liver, kidneys, etc., which start vibrating.

The natural frequencies of wood-frame house walls are less than 20 Hz. The infrasound induces them to start vibrating, which creates standing, inaudible air pressure waves inside the rooms of a house. As a result, nearby people find life inside their houses unbearable. Often they abandon their houses, or sell at very low prices.

Infrasound interferes with the body’s natural biorhythms, and causes adverse health impacts on nearby people and animals, including DNA damage to nearby pregnant women and animals, their fetuses, and newborn offspring. See URLs.

Infrasound travels long distances. A buffer zone of about 1 mile is required to reduce adverse impacts on people. However, roaming animals would continue to be exposed.

Acoustics consultants usually deal with OSHA-type measurements of everyday noises. Most of them have almost no experience measuring infrasound, which requires special instrumentation and test set-ups. As a result, acoustics consultants take the easy way out by claiming infrasound does not exist. That measurements of low frequency noise are made to look less on an A-weighted basis helps their argument.

If acoustics consultants admit infrasound does exist, they provide a list of studies proving it does no harm. To which opponents reply with a list of studies that state it does harm to nearby people.

Some governments have used infrasound as a non-lethal weapon for torture or crowd control. It leaves no marks.

The Need for a 5 dB Annoyance Penalty: Rural nighttime ambient noise is 20 – 40 dBA, and urban residential nighttime ambient noise is 58 – 62 dBA. In many rural areas, nighttime outdoor ambient noise averages about 20 dBA.

People who live in urban areas have no idea how quiet it is in rural areas. For example: the introduction of clusters of 3 MW wind turbines, on 2,000-ft ridgelines in New England, came as a total shock to nearby rural people. Being high up, the noise carries far, especially the infrasound.

The dB values to indicate noises are a proxy for sound pressure level, SPL. The ears of people are sensitive to sound pressure. The below table clearly indicates random noise spikes above 50 dB have high SPL values, which are highly disturbing to nearby people, especially at night. Any wind turbine noise guidelines and codes must be based on rural noise values.

A 45 dB noise has an SPL 5.6 times greater than a 30 dB noise; 17.8 times greater than a 20 dB noise.

A 63 dB random spike has an SPL 44.9 times greater than a 30 dB noise; 142 times greater than a 20 dB noise.

 

Noise level Noise, dB Times reference pressure*
Rural average outdoor

20

10.0

Rural average outdoor

30

31.6

Rural average outdoor near a residence

45

177.8

Rural random spike

51

354.8

Rural random spike

57

709.6

Rural random spike

63

1419.2

Rural random spike

69

2838.4

 

* The commonly used reference sound pressure in air is 20 micro-pascal. It is considered the threshold of human hearing (roughly the sound of a mosquito flying 3 m away).

General Comments: As almost all recently installed wind turbines are rated at 2 – 3 MW, and as almost all such units are in rural settings, government noise codes should use the rural nighttime ambient noise level as the basis for limiting wind turbine noises.

Ever-present, random spike noises, with higher dB values, say 60 – 70 dBA, can occur, during an hour, but the “averaging over one hour” makes these noises disappear; hence the reason for Denmark, Maine, etc., having a 5 dB annoyance penalty.

These peak noises are most annoying, they occur at random, and mostly at night. They adversely affect the health of nearby people. As a minimum, they deprive nearby people from getting a good night’s sleep to recover from the prior day, and to get ready for the next day. According to WHO, restful sleep is a basic requirement for good mental and physical health, as are food, water, air, etc.

Denmark holds infrasound is harmful to the health of nearby people and animals. Therefore, it has an infrasound requirement in its wind turbine code. Here is a chart and 4 articles prepared by Rand and Ambrose, two prominent acoustics engineers, which shows Vermont’s noise limit.

Enercon Forced to Accept Liability for Harm Caused to Neighbours of Irish Windfarm!

Families forced from homes due to wind farm noise win court case

A number of families in Co Cork who were forced to leave their homes because of noise from a nearby wind farm have won a significant case in the High Court this week.

The families claim they have been severely impacted by noise since the wind farm began operating in 2011.

This is the first action of its kind in Ireland and may now open many wind farm developers to the prospect of legal challenges from families in similar situations.

The case was taken against wind turbine manufacturer Enercon who have accepted full liability for causing nuisance to seven families who live up to 1km from the wind farm.

The case will return to the High Court in 2017 to discuss punitive damages.

Promises in Government over the last four years to introduce planning regulations regarding wind turbines have failed to materialize.

According to out-dated guidelines, turbines may be built 500m from homes. In many cases, including this, wind turbines have been built closer than 500m.

A spokesperson for Wind Aware Ireland said: “There now is a possibility for multiple legal actions against wind farms right around the country.

“The legal implications for the wind industry are significant. The use of inadequate and out-dated planning guidelines may come back to haunt the industry, planning authorities and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE).”

On election, Minister Naughten promised that new planning guidelines would be in place within 3 to 6 months of the formation of the new government.

Yet Another Study Showing Harm From Wind Turbines…

September 2016Sweden    Shared by: Friends Against Wind

Physiological effects of wind turbine noise on sleep

Swedish study into wind turbine noise suggests that it can have an effect on sleep – even in young fit healthy subjects.

Sleep disturbance
“The presence of beats and strong amplitude modulation contributed to sleep disturbance, reflected by more electrophysiological awakenings, increased light sleep and wakefulness, and reduced REM and deep sleep.”

By Michael G. Smith(a), Mikael Ögren(b), Pontus Thorsson(c), Eja Pedersen(d) and Kerstin Persson Waye(e)

(a) University of Gothenburg, Sweden, michael.smith@amm.gu.se
(b) University of Gothenburg, Sweden, mikael.ogren@amm.gu.se
(c) Chalmers University of Technology Sweden, pontus.thorsson@akustikverkstan.se
(d) Lund University, Sweden, eja.pedersen@arkitektur.lth.se
(e) University of Gothenburg, Sweden, kerstin.persson.waye@amm.gu.se

Abstract

In accordance with the EU energy policy, wind turbines are becoming increasingly widespread throughout Europe, and this trend is expected to continue globally. More people will consequently live close to wind turbines in the future, and hence may be exposed to wind farm noise. Of particular concern is the potential for nocturnal noise to contribute towards sleep disturbance of nearby residents. To examine the issue, we are implementing a project titled Wind Turbine Noise Effects on Sleep (WiTNES). In a pilot study described in this paper, we performed an initial investigation into the particular acoustical characteristics of wind turbine noise that might have the potential to disturb sleep. Six young, healthy individuals spent 5 nights in our sound exposure laboratory. During the final 3 nights of the study, the participants were exposed to wind turbine noise, which was synthesised based on analysis of field measurements. Exposures involved periods of different amplitude modulation strengths, the presence or absence of beats, different blade rotational periods, and outdoor LAEq,8h = 45 or 50 dB with indoor levels based on the windows being fully closed or slightly open. Physiological measurements indicate that nights with low frequency band amplitude modulation and LAEq,8h = 45 dB, slightly open window (LAEq,8h = 33 dB indoors) impacted sleep the most. The presence of beats and strong amplitude modulation contributed to sleep disturbance, reflected by more electrophysiological awakenings, increased light sleep and wakefulness, and reduced REM and deep sleep. The impact on sleep by these acoustic characteristics is currently the focus of interest in ongoing studies.

Download the study

Presented at the 22nd International Congress on Acoustics in Buenos Aires in September 2016

Loud Noises Are Slowly Ruining Your Health (Windpushers still in denial)

Loud Noises Are Slowly Ruining Your Health

Noise pollution is a lot worse for you than you may have thought. According to the World Health Organization, it’s the second biggest environmental cause of health problems in humans after air pollution. Studies from 2012 suggested it contributed to 910,000 additional cases of hypertension across Europe every year and 10,000 premature deaths related to coronary heart diseases or strokes. Closer to home, a 15-year study found that there was a higher rate of cardiovascular and stroke-related deaths among those living near to the rabble of Heathrow—something residents are sure to cite in the wake of ministers approving a third runway there.

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So why isn’t anyone talking about it?

“Noise is invisible,” says Poppy Szkiler of Quiet Mark. “I think that’s why the problems associated with it have been ignored, until now.”

Quiet Mark provide a universal stamp of approval for products and companies that recognize the importance of reducing their acoustic footprint. They were born out of the Noise Abatement Society, established in 1959 when John Connell—Szkiler’s grandfather—wrote an angry letter to the Daily Telegraph bemoaning the increasingly invasive levels of noise in the world around him.

He was flabbergasted by the response—”Sackfuls of letters in agreement,” says Poppy—and lobbied Parliament so hard for change that the Noise Abatement Act was passed in 1960. Ever since, the Noise Abatement Society and Quiet Mark have flown the flag for a quieter society. Last week saw the release of their crowdfunded film, In Pursuit of Silence, which examines the way excessive noise has slowly infiltrated every aspect of our lives, and why human lives depend on our ability to combat it.

“Noise abatement is a bit like smoking,” says Szkiler. “It’s a public health issue. One day people just realized you shouldn’t smoke inside buildings. I think we’ve coped with noise for such a long time, but people are starting to recognize the value of a quieter life.” As proof, she points to a partnership with John Lewis, which got involved with Quiet Mark after customer research suggested 65 percent of its customers craved more peace and quiet.

source vice.com